Am I worrying too much? Advice please

Tonight after our ride, I had my mare tied next to her stall while finishing untacking/cooling off. I always close her stall door so she’s not tempted, but I made the mistake of worrying more about getting the saddle off so she could dry than closing it tonight. Well, after some time standing nice and quietly, she decided it was time to go home and walked into her stall while still tied to the outside. I was brushing her tail so I didn’t stop her in time, so when she was pulled back from behind her, she spooked big time, pulled HARD against the halter and reared, smacking her head on a beam. I got the knot undone quickly but I could tell by her eyes that she was seeing stars and her head was very sensitive in front of her ears.

We hung out for a bit and then I very loosely put her on cross ties when she calmed down and walked it out. I kid you not, 10 mins later, a horse fly sized bug flew in the barn and started diving at her head, so of course she pulled HARD again. I didn’t get to the knot in time before she pulled so hard the quick knot was stuck in the hook. I had to take her halter off and jog her away from the nasty bug.

I’m still so ashamed of myself and feel so horrible that she went through this TWICE in 20 minutes. My heart hurts picturing her thrashing about in fear. We have actually been working on tying quietly on the weekends along with herd-boundness and she’s been great! She’s taught herself about coming off the pressure pretty well I think. This was totally a fluke, first one being my fault 10000%.

Can anyone give advice for going about this the right way? I want to be proactive while also letting her know it was no big deal and choosing to pull is unacceptable. I’ve never had this happen and she is wonderful on the ground, however clearly there is a hole in her training.

Thanks for sticking with me this far!

I really like the blocker tie rings especially when learning. If the horse panics, they give a little, but the horse doesn’t get loose. I have a mare that would break halters, rings on my trailer, etc. I tried one of these things and now she never pulls back even when tied without it. It just seemed to take the claustrophobia out of the whole experience for her.


Don’t treat it like a big deal, but do learn from your mistakes.

If you’re hard tying a horse, the horse needs to know HOW to hard tie before you can expect them to be able to do so without panicking when things go awry. I always start out tying a horse on a blocker ring initially and teaching them to work back and forth so that they get a chance to hit the end of the rope and feel the halter get tight while in a calm setting. Most horses catch on quickly they THEY create the release when they hit the end of the lead, feel it tighten up and then soften back into that pressure. I try and get them so good about seeking that release that I can flag them pretty hard, get them to the end of the leadrope and they’ll choose to hang out right in that space between full release and pulling back, because then I know for sure they know where the safe spot is and they don’t WANT to feel the halter tighten. It makes it all the more likely that when stuff does happen that is beyond your control and your horse whirls around, he’s going to remember how to release himself and not go to thrashing.

The blocker ring is handy because it will “help” the horse to find that release by giving a bit if they do pull hard, so they don’t ever get trapped without someway back to finding comfort while being tied.

Once that is going well, you can hard tie without a blocker ring.

I’d stay far, far away from crossties. IME, they are the most dangerous item in any given barn: you’ve restricted your horse’s ability to look left, right or behind him, so he’s left with two options: blast forward or go up. Neither of those are anything we want our horses doing. To make matters worse, we attach safety rings or baler twine to cross ties so they break when a horse does get stuck and panics. We not only don’t teach them how to get out of a bind, we handicap them and then create a panic door that they’ll learn to use quickly any time they can’t stand being on the ties anymore.

Stop thinking about her decision to pull as “unacceptable”, because that implies she knows better - she doesn’t. If she can’t flee a situation, the next option is to fight it, and that’s exactly what pulling back is. Teach her an option OTHER than fight, teach her she can create her own release by giving to pressure no matter where it comes from, and you’ll find the issue disappears.


That blocker tie ring looks handy. There’s always something new.

You sound like a good horse person. Forgive yourself. These things happen. Sometimes we get away with a short cut and sometimes it gets us. I’ve had a couple of experiences where horses panic and pull back during the last 35 years with horses. It all happens so fast, but I remember what I’ve done because it’s like everything slows down. It’s really hard to get them untied when they are actually panicking. I don’t even try. If you tied them properly, they can’t get hung up on anything, so it’s okay to focus on using your voice and body language to quiet them down. I find looking them in the eye and saying their name quietly helps. When they look back and focus on you, they usually stop. Maybe even asking them to step forward or whatever verbal command you use. Once they’re quiet, I can worry about tugging on the quick release knot. Since your mare smacked herself, I’m sure that upset you and made you feel like you needed to release her right away. Maybe she could have further injured herself, so that makes sense. It sounds like you did everything right and then tied her differently, which is also understandable since you wanted to keep her away from anything she could hit her head on. She was probably still very reactive and that’s why that bug was an issue. Who knows how many bugs she’s ignored or shook her head, or or tossed her head at, but this time, of course, the bug was another stimulus when she was still pretty full of adrenalin.

Tomorrow is a new day. The tie blocker is a neat idea, but don’t stop working with her until you get one. Take her out and tie her for pleasant things. Maybe many shorter tying sessions? Lots of attention and nice things in the barn when she’s tied, like treats and good grooming. She’ll put it behind her soon enough.

Do check her head for swelling. Maybe ask you vet if an anti inflammatory would be a good idea. With people, you need to be careful with meds after a possible concussion, even if it’s just a mild one, so please ask your vet.




If there is any chance I have a horse who will pull back , I use a small piece of baling twine and tie to that ( twine is tied to the actual tie object).

My mare actually had 2 freak incidents ( dog related) in the same week and I was glad she could break away when she needed. Otherwise she stands as long as I wish with a slack rope.


I’m the paranoid person at the barn hanging blocker rings on the cross ties before using them. Prefer single tie though tbh.

Other people have different views but if my horse decides he needs to leave I’d just as soon give him that option without him feeling like he needs to freak out to do so. Since working with the blocker tie ring in a manner super similar to like you describe, horse hasn’t felt the need to leave. Even tied via blocker ring to the trailer at his first horse shows.

He’s at home now and the rope tossed over a handy gate or board is enough to keep him in place.

Highly recommend OP follow your excellent advice in this.

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In my barn we have metal rings tied with baling twine to tie to (so you tie to the ring, but the bailing twine with break in an incident). I have never found that having a break-away system causes a horses to have tying issues. As you have found: quick release knots don’t quick release under pressure. I hope your horse is ok.


Honestly, once a horse has demonstrated the tendency to pull back and break away (as in, not a single freak accident but a pattern of behavior), I am not comfortable hard tying that horse ever again. In an adult horse, the stakes are too high in a horse that has learned this particular behavior, and there is always a not-insignificant risk that they will revert to it, no matter how much time/training has elapsed in the mean time. With these types of horses, I like the Blocker tie ring - even though, unlike many here, I am NOT a fan of the Blocker rings for actually teaching tying.

One thing that you can work with her on, though, is learning to drop her head in response to pressure on her poll. This is something I teach babies as part of basic halter/lead training, and I will not even “soft” tie (i.e. loop the lead around a post while I hold the tail end) until the horse is 100% solid with this step. It’s the foundation skill that you will need to address all the other ground work holes that these types of horses tend to have - loading, bathing, clipping, etc.

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